Hiroshima and Nagasaki: Worst single terror attacks in history
By Norm Dixon
August 6 and August 9 mark the anniversaries of the US atomic-bomb attacks on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. In Hiroshima, an estimated 80,000 people were killed in a split second. Some 13 square kilometres of the city were obliterated. By December, at least another 70,000 people had died from radiation and injuries.
Three days after Hiroshima's destruction, the US dropped an A-bomb on Nagasaki, resulting in the deaths of at least 70,000 people before the year was out.
Since 1945, tens of thousands more residents of the two cities have continued to suffer and die from radiation-induced cancers, birth defects and still births.
A tiny group of US rulers met secretly in Washington and callously ordered this indiscriminate annihilation of civilian populations. They gave no explicit warnings. They rejected all alternatives, preferring to inflict the most extreme human carnage possible. They ordered and had carried out the two worst single terror acts in human history.
Hiroshima and Nagasaki anniversaries are inevitably marked by countless mass media commentaries and US politicians' speeches that repeat the 64-year-old mantra that there was no other choice but to use A-bombs in order to avoid a bitter, prolonged invasion of Japan.
On July 21, 2005, the British New Scientist magazine undermined this chorus when it reported that two historians had uncovered further evidence revealing that “the US decision to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki ... was meant to kick-start the Cold War [against the Soviet Union, Washington's war-time ally] rather than end the Second World War”. Peter Kuznick, director of the Nuclear Studies Institute at the American University in Washington, stated that US President Harry Truman's decision to blast the cities “was not just a war crime, it was a crime against humanity”.
With Mark Selden, a historian from Cornell University in New York, Kuznick studied the diplomatic archives of the US, Japan and the USSR. They found that three days before Hiroshima, Truman agreed at a meeting that Japan was “looking for peace”. His senior generals and political advisers told him there was no need to use the A-bomb. But the bombs were dropped anyway. “Impressing Russia was more important than ending the war”, Selden told the New Scientist.
While the capitalist media immediately dubbed the historians' “theory” “controversial”, it accords with the testimony of many central US political and military players at the time, including General Dwight Eisenhower, who stated bluntly in a 1963 Newsweek interview that “the Japanese were ready to surrender and it wasn't necessary to hit them with that awful thing”.
Truman's chief of staff, Admiral William Leahy, stated in his memoirs that “the use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender.”
At the time though, Washington cold-bloodedly decided to obliterate the lives of hundreds of thousands of men, women and children to show off the terrible power of its new super weapon and underline the US rulers' ruthless preparedness to use it.
These terrible acts were intended to warn the leaders of the Soviet Union that their cities would suffer the same fate if the USSR attempted to stand in the way of Washington's plans to create an “American Century” of US global domination. Nuclear scientist Leo Szilard recounted to his biographers how Truman's secretary of state, James Byrnes, told him before the Hiroshima attack that “Russia might be more manageable if impressed by American military might and that a demonstration of the bomb may impress Russia”.
Drunk from the success of its nuclear bloodletting in Japan, Washington planned and threatened the use of nuclear weapons on at least 20 occasions in the 1950s and 1960s, only being restrained when the USSR developed enough nuclear-armed rockets to usher in the era of “mutually assured destruction”, and the US rulers' fear that their use again of nuclear weapons would led to a massive anti-US political revolt by ordinary people around the world.
Washington's policy of nuclear terror remains intact. The US refuses to rule out the first use of nuclear weapons in a conflict. Its latest Nuclear Posture Review envisages the use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear “rogue states” and it is developing a new generation of ‘battlefield” nuclear weapons.
Fear of the political backlash that would be caused in the US and around the globe by the use of nuclear weapons remains the main restraint upon the atomaniacs in Washington. On the anniversaries of history's worst single acts of terror, the most effective thing that peaceful people around the world can do to keep that fear alive in the minds of the US rulers is to recommit ourselves to defeating Washington's current “local” wars of terror in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Hiroshima and Nagasaki: A Look Back at the US Atomic Bombing 64 Years LaterThis year marks the sixty-fourth anniversary of the US atomic bombings of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki that killed over 150,000 people instantly. Commemorations this weekend in Japan and around the world marked the US bombing of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, and then on August 9th, of Nagasaki. We play the report of Wilfred Burchett, the first journalist to make it into Hiroshima, as well as Anthony Weller, the son of Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist George Weller, who was the first reporter to enter Nagasaki after the bombing, and we hear from Hiroshima survivor Shigeko Sasamori.
Anthony Weller, son of Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist George Weller, who worked for the Chicago Daily News and was the first reporter to enter Nagasaki after the bombing.
Wilfred Burchett, Australian reporter and the first journalist to make it into Hiroshima after the bombing.
Shigeko Sasamori, Hiroshima survivor, one of the Hibakusha. She was a thirteen-year-old schoolgirl when the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. She was one of twenty-four young Japanese women brought to New York by American journalist Norman Cousins for surgical reconstruction treatment after the bombing.
ANJALI KAMAT: This year marks the sixty-fourth anniversary of
the US atomic bombings of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki
that killed over 150,000 people instantly. Commemorations this weekend
in Japan and around the world marked the US bombing of Hiroshima on
August 6th, 1945, and then on August 9th, of Nagasaki.
The Mayor of Nagasaki called for a global ban on nuclear arms at
a ceremony Sunday and urged nuclear-armed countries to travel to
Nagasaki and understand the destruction experienced there.
The bomb dropped over Nagasaki killed 74,000 people immediately
and left another 75,000 seriously wounded. In Hiroshima, 70,000 to
80,000 people were killed in an instant, and another 70,000 seriously
injured. By official Japanese estimates, nearly 300,000 people died
from the bombings, including those who died in the ensuing months and
years from related injuries and illnesses. Other researchers estimate a
much higher death toll.
To mark the anniversary of the bombings, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued an urgent call for disarmament.
BAN KI-MOON: Sixty-four years ago, atom bombs rained down on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Upon seeing such horror and devastation, people throughout the world thought such carnage must never happen again. But thousands of nuclear weapons remain in global arsenals. The risk of nuclear terrorism is real. Let us convince leaders, once and for all, of the waste, futility and dangers posed by weapons of mass destruction. In the face of this catastrophic threat, our message is clear: together, we must disarm.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, today, sixty-four years after the
bombings, we host a discussion on what took place in Hiroshima and
Nagasaki and the present nuclear landscape. Currently, the nine nuclear
powers—the United States, Russia, France, England, China, Israel,
Pakistan, India and North Korea—have more than 27,000 operational
nuclear weapons among them. The US and Russia alone have enough nuclear
warheads to launch the equivalent of 100,000 Hiroshimas in just twelve
minutes, this according to Bruce Blair, president of the World Security
Speaking in Prague earlier this year, President Obama called for a world free of nuclear weapons.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: So today, I state clearly and with conviction America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.
AMY GOODMAN: That was President Obama.
Well, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist George Weller worked for the Chicago Daily News
and was the first reporter to enter Nagasaki after the bombing of
August 9th, 1945. Weller hired a rowboat to get himself there and wrote
a 25,000-word report on the horrors that he encountered. But his report
didn’t get past the military censors. General MacArthur personally
ordered the story be killed, and the manuscript was never returned.
George Weller died in 2002, but in 2005 his son, Anthony Weller,
discovered a copy of the suppressed dispatches. They’re now published
as a book called First Into Nagasaki: The Censored Eyewitness Dispatches on Post-Atomic Japan and Its Prisoners of War.
Democracy Now! spoke to Anthony Weller soon after he
found his father’s articles. This is how he described the physical
health of the survivors in Nagasaki and what his father had called
ANTHONY WELLER: He was as astonished as the Japanese doctors were, of course, by what he referred to in his reports as “Disease X.” It was perhaps not so astonishing to see some of the scorches and burns that people had suffered. But to see people apparently unblemished at all by the bomb and who had seemingly survived intact suddenly finding themselves feeling unwell and going to hospital, sitting there on their cots surrounded by doctors and relatives who could do nothing, and finding, when he would go back the next day, that they had just died, or that, let’s say, a woman who had come through unscathed, making dinner for her husband and having the misfortune to make a very small cut in her finger while peeling a lemon, would just keep bleeding and bleed to death, because the platelets in her bloodstream had been so reduced that the blood couldn’t clot anymore.
ANJALI KAMAT: Wilfred Burchett was the first journalist to
make it into Hiroshima, which was bombed three days before Nagasaki,
August 6th, 1945. He was an Australian reporter who defied the US
military, which had said that the whole area of southern Japan was
off-limits. He took a train for thirty hours to Hiroshima. In this
recording, an excerpt from a documentary by Andrew Phillips called Hiroshima Countdown, Burchett describes what he saw.
WILFRED BURCHETT: These people were all in various states of physical disintegration. They would all die, but they were giving them whatever comfort could be given until they died. And the doctor explained that he didn’t know why they were dying. The only symptoms they could isolate from a medical point of view was that of acute vitamin deficiency. So they started giving vitamin injections. Then he explains where they put the needle in, then the flesh started to rot. And then, gradually, the thing would develop this bleeding, which they couldn’t stop, and then the hair falling out. And the hair falling out was more or less the last stage. And the number of the women who were lying there with sort of halos of their black hair which had already fallen out. I felt staggered, really staggered by what I’d seen. And just where I sat down, I found some lump of concrete, I remember, that had not been pulverized. I sat on that with my little Hermes typewriter, and my first words, I remember now, were, “I write this as a warning to the world.”
AMY GOODMAN: “I write this as a warning to the world,” the
words of Wilfred Burchett, as we turn now to one of the Hiroshima
survivors. She was a Hibakusha. Shigeko Sasamori was a
thirteen-year-old schoolgirl when the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. She
was one of twenty-four young Japanese women brought to New York by the
American journalist Norman Cousins for surgical reconstruction after
Well, I had a chance to visit Shigeko Sasamori at her home in Los Angeles six years ago.
SHIGEKO SASAMORI: I felt the very, very strong light.
I can’t explain how strong it is. Very bright light. But before the
bright light, I saw airplane drop the white thing. Then, same time,
knock me down, a strong wind. Then I don’t know how long I was
unconscious, but when I noticed, looked around, I couldn’t see
anything, I couldn’t hear anything, but just see red and black and
grey. So dark. Then, just like a dead country or dead place. Then, for
a while I’m waiting, just like a deep fog going away, faraway, the
blackness, redness going away. And then I can see around the area.
And that’s the time—I don’t know how to describe, because I’ve
never been to hell, but when people say hell and heaven, that is hell.
Horrible. People wasn’t people. Just horrible horror.
When they find me, they couldn’t recognize, because my face was like a big ball, black ball. No eye, no eyebrow, nothing. My hair was kinky and burned. I burned one-fourth of body, front half, both hands, both arms, neck and chest and whole face. So, while I’m lying down, people come to see me and talking to my mother. “Is she still alive? Is she still OK?” Everybody thought I’m going to die.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org,
The War and Peace Report. And she was a Hibakusha, which means a
survivor of the atomic bombing, Shigeko Sasamori, whom I visited in her
home in Los Angeles, brought here to go through reconstructive surgery
for her burned body and face.
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Posted by onehundredflowers on August 6, 2011
8:15 A.M. on August 6, 1945 at the very end of World War 2.
August 6 is the anniversary of the U.S. nuclear bombing of
Hiroshima. Each year we commemorate and expose the crime and horror of
The following was in commondreams.org.
“The story of military necessity, quickly and clumsily pasted together after the War’s end, simply does not hold up against the overwhelming military realities of the time. On the other hand, the use of the bomb to contain Russian expansion and to make the Russians, in Truman’s revealing phrase, “more manageable,” comports completely with all known facts and especially with U.S. motivations and interests.
“Which story should we accept, the one that doesn’t hold together but that has been sanctified as national dogma? Or the one that does hold together but offends our self concept?”
Was the Atomic Bombing of Japan Necessary?
by Robert Freeman
Few issues in American history – perhaps only slavery itself – are as charged as the dropping of the atomic bombs on Japan. Was it necessary? Merely posing the question provokes indignation, even rage. Witness the hysterical shouting down of the 1995 Smithsonian exhibit that simply dared discuss the question fifty years after the act. Today, another eleven years on, Americans still have trouble coming to terms with the truth about the bombs.
But anger is not argument. Hysteria is not history. The decision to drop the bomb has been laundered through the American myth-making machine into everything from self-preservation by the Americans to concern for the Japanese themselves-as if incinerating two hundred thousand human beings in a second was somehow an act of moral largesse.
Yet the question will not die, nor should it: was dropping the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki a military necessity? Was the decision justified by the imperative of saving lives or were there other motives involved?
The question of military necessity can be quickly put to rest. “Japan was already defeated and dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary.” Those are not the words of a latter-day revisionist historian or a leftist writer. They are certainly not the words of an America-hater. They are the words of Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe and future president of the United States. Eisenhower knew, as did the entire senior U.S. officer corps, that by mid 1945 Japan was defenseless.
After the Japanese fleet was destroyed at Leyte Gulf in October 1944, the U.S. was able to carry out uncontested bombing of Japan’s cities, including the hellish firebombings of Tokyo and Osaka. This is what Henry H. Arnold, Commanding General of the U.S. Army Air Forces, meant when he observed, “The Japanese position was hopeless even before the first atomic bomb fell because the Japanese had lost control of their own air.” Also, without a navy, the resource-poor Japanese had lost the ability to import the food, oil, and industrial supplies needed to carry on a World War.
As a result of the naked futility of their position, the Japanese had approached the Russians, seeking their help in brokering a peace to end the War. The U.S. had long before broken the Japanese codes and knew that these negotiations were under way, knew that the Japanese had for months been trying to find a way to surrender.
Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, Commander in Chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, reflected this reality when he wrote, “The Japanese had, in fact, already sued for peace.the atomic bomb played no decisive part, from a purely military point of view, in the defeat of Japan.” Admiral William D. Leahy, Chief of Staff to President Truman, said the same thing: “The use of [the atomic bombs] at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender.”
Civilian authorities, especially Truman himself, would later try to revise history by claiming that the bombs were dropped to save the lives of one million American soldiers. But there is simply no factual basis for this in any record of the time. On the contrary, the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey reported, “Certainly prior to 31 December 1945, and in all probability prior to 1 November 1945, Japan would have surrendered even if the atomic bombs had not been dropped.” The November 1 date is important because that was the date of the earliest possible planned U.S. invasion of the Japanese main islands.
In other words, the virtually unanimous and combined judgment of the most informed, senior, officers of the U.S. military is unequivocal: there was no pressing military necessity for dropping the atomic bombs on Japan.
But if dropping the bombs was not driven by military needs, why, then, were they used? The answer can be discerned in the U.S. attitude toward the Russians, the way the War ended in Europe, and the situation in Asia.
U.S. leaders had long hated the communist Russian government. In 1919, the U.S. had led an invasion of Russia – the infamous “White Counter Revolution” – to try to reverse the red Bolshevik Revolution that had put the communists into power in 1917. The invasion failed and the U.S. did not extend diplomatic recognition to Russia until 1932.
Then, during the Great Depression, when the U.S. economy collapsed, the Russian economy boomed, growing almost 500%. U.S. leaders worried that with the War’s end, the country might fall back into another Depression. And World War II was won not by the American laissez faire system, but by the top-down, command and control over the economy that the Russian system epitomized. In other words, the Russian system seemed to be working while the American system was plagued with recent collapse and a questionable self-confidence.
In addition, to defeat Germany, the Russian army had marched to Berlin through eastern Europe. It occupied and controlled 150,000 square miles of territory in what is today Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, and Yugoslavia. At Yalta, in February 1945, Stalin demanded to keep this newly occupied territory. Russia, Stalin rightly claimed, had been repeatedly invaded by western Europeans, from Napoleon to the Germans in World War I and now by Hitler. Russia lost more than 20,000,000 lives in World War II and Stalin wanted a buffer against future invasions.
At this point, in February 1945, the U.S. did not know whether the bomb would work or not. But it unquestionably needed Russia’s help to end both the War in Europe and the War in the Pacific. These military realities were not lost on Roosevelt: with no army to displace Stalin’s in Europe and needing Stalin’s support, Roosevelt conceded eastern Europe, handing the Russians the greatest territorial gain of the War.
Finally and perhaps most importantly, Stalin agreed at Yalta that once the War in Europe was over, he would transfer his forces from Europe to Asia and within 90 days would enter the War in the Pacific against Japan. This is where timing becomes critically important. The War in Europe ended on May 8, 1945. May 8 plus 90 days is August 8. If the U.S. wanted to prevent Russia from occupying territory in east Asia the way it had occupied territory in eastern Europe, it needed to end the war as quickly as possible.
This issue of territory in east Asia was especially important because before the war against Japan, China had been embroiled in a civil war of its own. It was the U.S.-favored nationalists under General Chiang Kai Shek against the communists under Mao Ze Dong. If communist Russia were allowed to gain territory in east Asia, it would throw its considerable military might behind Mao, almost certainly handing the communists a victory once the World War was ended and the civil war was resumed.
Once the bomb was proven to work on July 15, 1945, events took on a furious urgency. There was simply no time to work through negotiations with the Japanese. Every day of delay meant more land given up to Russia and, therefore, a greater likelihood of communist victory in the Chinese civil war. All of Asia might go communist. It would be a strategic catastrophe for the U.S. to have won the War against the fascists only to hand it to its other arch enemy, the communists. The U.S. needed to end the War not in months, or even weeks, but in days.
So, on August 6, 1945, two days before the Russians were to declare war against Japan, the U.S. dropped the bomb on Hiroshima. There was no risk to U.S. forces then waiting for a Japanese response to the demand for surrender. The earliest planned invasion of the island was still three months away and the U.S. controlled the timing of all military engagements in the Pacific. But the Russian matter loomed and drove the decision on timing. So, only three days later, the U.S. dropped the second bomb on Nagasaki. The Japanese surrendered on August 14, 1945, eight days after the first bomb was dropped.
Major General Curtis LeMay commented on the bomb’s use: “The War would have been over in two weeks without the Russians entering and without the atomic bomb. The atomic bomb had nothing to do with the end of the War at all.” Except that it drastically speeded the War’s end to deprive the Russians of territory in east Asia.
The story of military necessity, quickly and clumsily pasted together after the War’s end, simply does not hold up against the overwhelming military realities of the time. On the other hand, the use of the bomb to contain Russian expansion and to make the Russians, in Truman’s revealing phrase, “more manageable,” comports completely with all known facts and especially with U.S. motivations and interests.
Which story should we accept, the one that doesn’t hold together but that has been sanctifiied as national dogma? Or the one that does hold together but offends our self concept? How we answer says everything about our maturity and our capacity for intellectual honesty.
It is sometimes hard for a people to reconcile its history with its own national mythologies – the mythologies of eternal innocence and Providentially anointed righteousness. It is all the more difficult when a country is embroiled in yet another war and the power of such myths are needed again to gird the people’s commitment against the more sobering force of facts.
But the purpose of history is not to sustain myths. It is, rather, to debunk them so that future generations may act with greater awareness to avoid the tragedies of the past. It may take another six or even sixty decades but eventually the truth of the bomb’s use will be written not in mythology but in history. Hopefully, as a result, the world will be a safer place.
Robert Freeman writes on economics, history, and education.
The Atomic Bomb and the End of World War II
A Collection of Primary Sources
Updated National Security Archive Posting Marks 70th Anniversary of the Atomic
Bombings of Japan and the End of World War II
Extensive Compilation of Primary Source Documents Explores Manhattan Project, Petitions Against Military Use of Atomic Weapons, Debates over Japanese Surrender Terms, Atomic Targeting Decisions, and Lagging Awareness of Radiation Effects New Information Spotlights General Dwight D. Eisenhower's Early Misgivings about First Nuclear Use General Curtis Lemay's Report on the Firebombing of Tokyo, March 1945
National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 525 Edited by William Burr Originally posted - August 5, 2005 First updated - April 27, 2007 Latest update - August 4, 2015 For more information, contact: William Burr - 202 / 994-7000 or email@example.com
August 4, 2015 - A few months after the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, General Dwight D. Eisenhower commented during a social occasion "how he had hoped that the war might have ended without our having to use the bomb."
This virtually unknown evidence from the diary of Robert P. Mieklejohn, an assistant to Ambassador W. Averell Harriman, published for the first time today by the National Security Archive, confirms that the future President Eisenhower had early misgivings about the first use of atomic weapons by the United States. General George C. Marshall is the only high-level official whose contemporaneous (pre-Hiroshima) doubts about using the weapons against cities are on record.
On the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima, the National Security Archive updates its 2005 publication of the most comprehensive on-line collection of declassified U.S. government documents on the first use of the atomic bomb and the end of the war in the Pacific.
This update presents previously unpublished material and translations of difficult-to-find records. Included are documents on the early stages of the U.S. atomic bomb project, Army Air Force General Curtis LeMay's report on the firebombing of Tokyo (March 1945), Secretary of War Henry Stimson's requests for modification of unconditional surrender terms, Soviet documents relating to the events, excerpts from the Robert P. Mieklejohn diaries mentioned above, and selections from the diaries of Walter J. Brown, special assistant to Secretary of State James Byrnes.
The original 2005 posting included a wide range of material, including formerly top secret "Magic" summaries of intercepted Japanese communications and the first-ever full translations from the Japanese of accounts of high level meetings and discussions in Tokyo leading to the Emperor's decision to surrender. Also documented are U.S. decisions to target Japanese cities, pre-Hiroshima petitions by scientists questioning the military use of the A-bomb, proposals for demonstrating the effects of the bomb, debates over whether to modify unconditional surrender terms, reports from the bombing missions of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and belated top-level awareness of the radiation effects of atomic weapons.
The documents can help readers to make up their own minds about long-standing controversies such as whether the first use of atomic weapons was justified, whether President Harry S. Truman had alternatives to atomic attacks for ending the war, and what the impact of the Soviet declaration of war on Japan was.
Since the 1960s, when the declassification of important sources began, historians have engaged in vigorous debate over the bomb and the end of World War II. Drawing on sources at the National Archives and the Library of Congress as well as Japanese materials, this electronic briefing book includes key documents that historians of the events have relied upon to present their findings and advance their interpretations.
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